My most important “Check your Game” Moment
My story would start as a premature 4 pound baby with mild fetal alcohol syndrome. I would suffer seizures, severe allergies that required painful allergy shots weekly, and chronic illness that would last until I was 6 years old. The first 2 or 3 years of my life, I would later find out from my much older brother that left by the time I was 4, were tragic. He explained to me that I would be put in a playpen for several hours and completely neglected. My parents had already divorced by the time I was born. I was left in the custody of my alcoholic mother. I was told that she had a blind chihuahua named “old man” and a huge neutered siamese cat named “Irving” that were my constant companions. Apparently when my mother was drinking and she tried to finally engage with me, Old Man would fiercely protect me and even bite her. Apparently Irving the cat would be at my side always keeping me warm and calm. I would look back on this later in life and realize that God was always there, and always protecting me. This would also explain my amazing bond with animals, much of the time relating to them much better than people.
When I was 6 years old my mother abruptly put me in the car one night, and we began a 2-week journey driving from Virginia to California. She had picked up a construction worker at the apartments we lived in, and off we went. I would find out later that she was being challenged for custody by my older brothers who were desperately trying to get me out of there, so she ran and never looked back. It took my father a year and private investigators to even figure out where I was. By the time I was 6 years old I had already been severely physically abused, suffered neglect, and been molested 3 times. This would unfortunately get even worse while I was in California. Between the ages of 6 and 9, I would suffer severe physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the hands of multiple individuals, both male and female. I would also experience horrific psychological torture at the hands of my mother. This all ended one day when she passed out one last time, and I was put in the care of my maternal grandmother. A week later my father showed up, and I began the next chapter of my life.
At nine and a half years old, my father brought me back to Virginia and I would have to learn to live in an entirely different environment. My father was a good man, but also was a product of the family curse of abuse. He also was a Vietnam Veteran dealing with undiagnosed PTSD. While there was no longer any sexual abuse, and for the most part much less physical abuse, the mental abuse was crippling. He was a product of “never being good enough,” and also a decorated Staff Sergeant, that had me permanently in “boot camp.” I know now that he did the best he could, with the equipping that he had, and I have not only forgiven him, but have learned to love him and respect him.
As a product of abuse, I was already hyper sexual, had extremely low self esteem, and was constantly bullied until one day in my early teens I would experience the power of violence, and we’ll just say that “I was not bullied anymore.” Up until I met my wife of 23 years and experienced God’s amazing grace and asked Him into my life at 23 years old, I had already battled sex addiction, alcoholism, an addiction to violence, and severe anxiety and depression. Finally after many Dr.’s and treatments I was diagnosed with C-PTSD. One Clinical Psychologist told me that I was a walking miracle. She could not believe that I was even able to function. God began to work in my life, but it has been a long arduous process. God has refined me in the fire slowly, and in stages. Over the next 20 year period, God would deliver me from alcohol, smoking, cursing and pornography. During this time I would be called to the Ministry in 2006 and begin a completely new season of tribulation. I would become an associate pastor, and begin my journey of understanding that I was an empath, loved pastoral care, and thought my future was completely mapped out. Tragedy struck when the Senior Pastor resigned suddenly and left the state. I was left with a broken church and spent the next six months assimilating parishioners to other churches, because they were bitter, and I was once again “not good enough.” I dissolved the Church, and was ready to walk away from ministry forever. During this time God kept sending people to me that were hurt and needed an empathic person to listen. The more this happened the more I felt that I needed to “take a couple counseling classes.” As the poster child for “overachievers anonymous” I would not stop my education until I had 2 Doctoral degrees, and no money! I was still seeking answers, but they were man’s answers not God’s. I was still seeking approval, trying to fill the pit in my heart. My wife exhibited amazing patience as my new addiction took hold. I had to be the best, most equipped counselor and Chaplain or I just wasn’t good enough. All this time still working with my hands as a mechanic, also trying to be the best at that field.
Four work related injuries later, and several surgeries finally got my attention. I could not surrender it all to the Lord, I had to be in control, and do it all myself. “I don’t owe anyone anything!!!!” was my constant mantra. God had other plans! First God humbled me physically several times, culminating to a ruptured disc in my back this past June 2021 that almost put me in a wheelchair. I had already opened a private practice to do counseling in 2009, and went back into the military as a chaplain.I chased and chased! I had done everything from volunteering with several police agencies, the volunteer fire department, working with the VA, and pouring my heart into non profits. It is now that I can tell you about the most important Check Your Game experience. I know “it took forever right?” You should hear me preach, or get in a conversation with me, I barely come up for air LOL!
Between 2020 and 2021, I invested a huge amount of time, passion and energy helping to develop a non-profit. My family was completely on board, and we all felt it was all my hopes and dreams coming true. I wrote processes, business plans, and even a completely unique treatment model. I was finally part of a TEAM!!, of like minded individuals, that I could trust, and we all wanted the same thing! Helping our veterans, first responder’s and their families. Completely without warning, I got a cease and desist letter one fateful day. I had been voted off the board in a private meeting, and all the intellectual property I had invested was taken. I was “off the team.” In my life, I have experienced heartache, disappointment and depression, but never like this. I was completely off the rails. I was in a debilitating depression that hurt my marriage, my relationship with my kids, even making them resent my calling and me!
It was when I was down for two weeks after my back surgery that God clearly spoke to me and gave me the vision to let go of my fear, lack of confidence, and move forward with Faith. Part of this has been learning to trust again, and being able to allow God to put people in my path to help me. God sent me a wonderful Christian woman that crafted the new design for Project Paladin, reconnected me with my good friend Karen Pennington, who has been a tremendous encourager, and led me to our awesome LI group. She also helped me connect with Christian Podcasts. This in turn has led me here to your amazing ministry and a chance to tell my story. God is so good! I take nothing for granted anymore. I am trying to live one day at a time in His loving arms. I will not lie, during this time I have been attacked severely by the evil one. I lost my brother to cancer, a very dear employee to a brain aneurysm, and my former Pastor and his wife only weeks apart. I continue to experience trials with my teenage children, extreme stress and fear with my secular career, and strain on my marriage. The difference is that God has given me an entirely different perspective. For the first time in my life I feel that I have completely surrendered to Him. I try to have an attitude of gratitude. Of course I fail sometimes, but I am completely leaning on God now. Each day is a gift. I feel blessed to have connected with such amazing Christian men and women on LI, and look forward to our friendships only growing. I also have renewed my passion to help the Paladin community. It is a legacy and fraternity of pain, but together we can be resilient, love one another, and allow God to turn our pain into purpose!
Here’s a short trailer that includes Dr. Joe and our Nomination process that he and others participated in. For his full video interview, see below this one.
Video Highlights (minute markers)
00:48 Dr. Joe shares about himself (PTSD, dysfunctional abusive family, generational curse, married for 23 years and 3 wonderful kids)
03:32- 4:25 Gary shares what Check Your Game is all about (bragging about God in our testimony or how God has brought us through)
05:06 Dr. Joe shares about his upbringing (toxic environment up until his teens, soiled his wild oats, sexual abuse, heavy drinker and violence)
7:00 He goes into the Navy, but continues his struggles with liquor, sex and fighting (a time when he was saved/marriage)
8:34 Challenges with wife (kids, distance in marriage, addictive personality, Dr. says no children)
9:45 Miracle of pregnancy with their first daughter (God broke Dr. Joe when she was born/was in love with this little girl- beginning of healing journey)
11:03 Dr. Joe is trying to be qualified through continued education but now shares how he was only running from God.
13:00 Continues to be broken even with another child (son). Learned that his spiritual gift was EMPATHY but needed to learn more.
14:41 2009 Dr. Joe started his private practice (trying to save a girl with an eating disorder hurt his family- no boundaries)
16:00 “Had to go through hotter fires for God to get my attention. God was molding me.”
16:30 “my Check Your Game moment was in the past 18 months.”
22:00 Physical issues– ruptured disc, continues sharing about his Check Your Game moment.
22:55 Check Your Game moment continued (Surrendered finances, channeling sexual energies towards spouse, alcohol/cigarettes- but did not give up complete control)
23:59 God was asking Dr. Joe, “how many blessings have you stole from others?”
24:59 2 week period after surgery, God helped Dr. Joe start Project Paladin!
26:30 The real Check Your Game moment…..Dr. Joe had a series of dreams about Jonah/Ninevah. He was going to learn to forgive and minister to others.
28:53 God is the cure for others (Dr. Joe learned in his Check Your Game moment that God is in control 100% of all of it- took many years to realize all of this)!
30:00 Shares about Karen Pennington (She Nominated Dr. Joseph after sharing her own story with us). Dr. Joe was encouraged by her!
31:55 Gary asks God, “what do I say” to Dr. Joe?” His daughter (#1), young girl with eating disorder (#1), journey with church/education (#1)- God wanted to be #1
35:00 Shares how a rooster keeps the hens in line/help them, he plucks a feather (great example in life how God loves us and sometimes disciplines us/plucks a feather)
36:05 Dr. Joe talking about everything was #1 except God. God wanted him to give Him everything!
37:04 God also gives positive affirmation too.
37:41 Gary shares about God is the power behind all (Matthew 7:24-27) Listen and be obedient to what we listen to!
38:14 Gary brings it all together and Dr. Joe shares about Project Paladin (his business and who he serves), counseling, ways to contact with him.
43:23 GOD IS THE ONLY WAY
44:15 Alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes or sex (coping mechanisms)
44:43 “I love to teach people. That’s my favorite thing to do.” Amazing things happen when a person is vulnerable/closing comments
Dr. Joe has Nominated (N) or Introduced (I) the following, plus Shared (S) their story:
The best advice I can give to anyone is to give it all to God. No matter what has happened to you in your life, God has always had a plan for you. Your pain can be turned into something very powerful and beautiful. Your experiences and scars can be used to help many people, and glorify God! You are not alone, and there is always hope!
My business card
Mental Health, Education, Advocacy
Project Paladin is an organization that is designed to unify the 2.7% of the population that are the defenders, protectors, rescuers and servants. All trauma, crisis and abuse survivors share the same effects of acute stress, PTSD, and C-PTSD. We are a family forged in fire. We have a unique perspective, and theory that involves temperament, attachment styles and family of origin in coordination with the physical, mental and spiritual effects of cumulative stress and trauma. We hold to the premise that each Paladin was specifically crafted by God to answer the call to serve and sacrifice.
My typical customer
Military, First Responders, Law enforcement, corrections, emergency Dr.'s and nurses, dispatch, security, first line clergy and survivors of trauma and abuse.
Visit my website: https://projectpaladinfamily.weebly.com/